The Brixton Riot has been a Jersey Beat favorite since
the band’s debut EP in 2007, with a unique mix of,
in their own words, “’70's power-pop and punk,
‘80's jangle-rock, and ‘90's indie rock.”
With two full albums, one EP, and several singles behind
them, the band is prepping a new release for Mint 400 Records,
and often finds itself sharing bills with Jersey’s
dad-rock scene – bands who are old enough to have
families and careers but for whom music is much more than
just a hobby. Now thg Brixton Riot is in the process of
writing and recording its next album (or possibly EP.) James
Damion caught up with guitarist/vocalist Jerry Lardieri
to talk about the band's history and future, the changing
landscape of New Jersey venues, and baseball.
The Brixton Riot
Jerry Lardieri - Vocals/Guitar
Steve Hass - Bass/Vocals
Mark Wright - Guitar
Matt Horutz - Drums
Q: How does it feel to be writing new songs together?
Jerry: Really great. It's what makes playing in the band
so much fun. There are lots of jobs and details that require
the four of us to put our heads together but songwriting
is probably the most rewarding. Every TBR song is a collaboration
to some extent. Nobody really brings completely finished
songs to the band and if they do, it's understood that it
can be changed at any time by anyone else in the band. The
rarest birds are the songs that seem to materialize from
nothing at rehearsal. It doesn't happen often but those
tend to be really good, probably because it's the product
of four minds doing the lifting
instead of one or two.
Q: Is there a certain sense of chemistry or brotherhood
you share with Steve, Matt, and Mark that comes into play
when you’re making music or playing together?
Jerry: Definitely. Beyond being friends or members of the
same band, I can honestly say we're like an extended family.
We've each needed to lean on the other three to get through
difficult times. Sometimes that means spending half or more
of a rehearsal just talking or making jokes and sometimes
it means just playing for two hours and blocking out everything
else. When my father was in his final years, I knew I could
always go to rehearsal and talk about it. We had a show
scheduled at Clash Bar three days after his passing and
after some initial hesitation about keeping the date, I
realized it was exactly what I needed. That night I played
the Strat he bought me for my birthday when I was in sixth
grade. The guys made sure things never got too heavy and
helped me get through it, just as they had helped me get
through the tough years at the end. When you share something
that personal it brings everyone closer together.
Q: What’s your favorite song from the new
record so far?
Jerry: Wow, that is hard to say. There's something I like
about each one of the songs. "Can't Stop Now"
has my favorite guitar riff, possibly of any TBR song. "Caroline"
and "Surrender To The Void" are probably the most
personal songs I've written so they're kind of special.
I love (Steve's wife) Alex's backing vocals on "Maybe
Tomorrow". "Hector Quasar" and "Easier
Said Than Done" are songs that I really enjoy playing
live. But if I have to pick one, I'm going to say "Move
On". It has a lot of the elements that I like best
in our songs and it always brings me back to one of my favorite
places. I remember when J (Robbins) was mixing it, he texted
me "this song's about Maxwell's, isn't it?" and
that was pretty awesome. I struggle with writing lyrics
more than any other aspect of songwriting so the fact that
he got the theme so fast was a huge affirmation.
"Bring On The Dancing Horses" by Echo &
The Bunnymen, video directed by Matt Horutz
Q: What went into the decision to cover Echo &
the Bunnymen? Have you always been a fan of the band? Or
was it the song, itself?
Jerry: I'd say the biggest factor was our inability to get
our other covers to pan out. We started with Pat Benatar's
"Invincible" from The Legend of Billie Jean
and we just couldn't get it to work. Then we tried Blondie's
"Call Me", which Matt REALLY petitioned hard for
because he's a huge Clem Burke fan. That didn't work either.
There were a bunch of other songs that we debated; Steve
is always great for finding lost gems and he brought up
trying "I Don't Know" from Fast Times At Ridgemont
High which is begging for a remake. When we realized
that "Dancing Horses" qualified (it had to be
a song that was not released before appearing on a movie
soundtrack), it was a no-brainer. We've got a few Echo fans
in the band so that helped put the vote over the top. I
think it worked out well, the original is so synth-centric
that playing everything on electric guitar and real drums
gave it a different feel. It still sounds like the original
but it also sounds like us, so that's a pretty good cover
in my book.
Q: What was it like making the video? Did you have
a vision going into it?
Jerry: Completely unnatural. I'd never been in a video before
and the process of "mime-playing" the song was
weird. Do I look at the floor? Look at the mic? Crap, I
just looked right at the camera. I didn't like it much at
all but I have a feeling we'll be doing more so I better
get used to it.
The vision and execution for the "Dancing Horses"
video was one hundred percent Matt. He ran the entire shoot
- filming, direction, lighting, etc. - all by himself. He
even setup a crane to film his drums. He turned out the
whole video from shooting to post-production in 10 days
while also working his full-time gig at Grey Sky Films.
He had some help from Dana Serao who did the editing and
Michael Prince and Eric Dubnoff who operated the crane.
I think it turned out great and I'm extremely grateful to
everyone who worked to turn it around so fast.
Q: You’ve also covered the Jacobites ‘Teenage
Christmas’ in the past. What draws you to want to
cover another artists work?
Jerry: There are a lot of different things that draw us
to covers. Sometimes it's fun just to play another band's
song. We played two shows last month where we covered nothing
but Lemonheads songs and it was a blast. Usually I pick
songs to cover because I really love them. "Teenage
Christmas" was something I first heard through Jon
Solomon's Christmas Eve marathon. The version I first heard
was actually a cover of the original, performed by Eux Autres.
I immediately liked it but I fell in love with the song
when I heard the Jaccobites original version. I really wanted
the band to cover the song and I still hope we get to but
I wanted to record something for Al Crisafulli's Christmas
Show on WFDU and it was an obvious choice. It's my favorite
Q: Playing shows again. Maybe it’s me, but
it seems like you’re playing more shows than ever.
Was there ever a case of wanting to slow down?
Jerry: It's funny to hear you say that because we've actually
been cutting back a bit. We have had some peaks and valleys
in the calendar over the years. When we were working on
the record we played very few shows but things have picked
up again. We'll likely cut back again while we start working
on the next one. I think it's good to go away and come back
again. It's hard to get people excited when they know there's
another chance to see you in two weeks.
There's also the concern of "going to the well"
too often. We've been fortunate to have some really great
audiences but it's unpredictable. People have lives, jobs,
kids, etc. Maybe that's the natural progression for bands
like ours when you reach your 40's. We try to be as accommodating
as possible with the shows we play, picking spots with little
or no cover when we can and picking dates and time slots
that make it reasonable for people to come out. We'll also
do things like the Lemonheads shows to make it more enticing
for people to come out. So, I don't think there's a conscious
desire to slow down just for the sake of slowing down, more
like a need to manage the calendar and pick dates carefully.
Q: Times change and many of the bands and venues
we once depended on for support and nourishment are no more.
How are you adjusting to the shift?
Jerry: It's taken us a long time to get over the loss of
Maxwell's and the changes at Asbury Lanes. These venues
meant so much more to us than the spaces they occupied.
I never stepped foot in Maxwell's after Screaming Females
last gig there and we turned down offers to play Maxwell's
Tavern out of a sense of loyalty...though we haven't gotten
anywhere in our attempts to play Monty Hall or White Eagle
Hall. So much for loyalty...
It's even more complicated at Asbury Lanes because Jenn
and Layney were such wonderful hosts and ran the Lanes with
so much love. Mark was a regular there for a long while
and I was there often to see bands. I haven't been to the
new Asbury Lanes but I think I'll likely go eventually.
It's hard to pass up shows at a Bowery Presents venue that's
20 minutes from my house with no bridge or tunnel tolls.
On a more positive note, there are some great places that
have stepped up to fill the gap. FM in Jersey City is a
great spot with a full back line. Tony (Susco) has done
a fantastic job there. It has a lot of the cool kitschy
vibe of the old Asbury Lanes. Monty Hall is another nice
spot and I don't think there's a better larger music venue
in NJ than White Eagle Hall.
There are a lot of great newer options in Asbury. The Yacht
Club is a blast to play being right on the water. It's pretty
hard to beat watching a live band from the boardwalk with
the ocean to your back. Asbury Park Brewery is presenting
some great bills and The Saint continues to be a great room
- probably the best sounding venue of its kind in Asbury
Park. Angie Surgim has also returned the great Happy Mondays
series to the Wonder Bar. So, there are a lot of options.
Bryant Sargent Photography
Q: Mint 400 is putting out the new record. I know
you released “Close Counts” through them. Was
there anything specific that brought you together?
Jerry: We were fortunate to meet Neil (Sabatino) through
a mutual friend and I'm very glad we did. He puts a lot
of time and effort into running the label and we definitely
appreciate that. I think he understands the kind of records
we like to make and he's enthusiastic to have them on Mint
400. More than anything it's great to have a partner through
the entire process. I think that's what attracted us all
to the label.
Q: How do you plan on supporting the new record?
Jerry: Well now that we've seen what Matt can do behind
a camera, there will certainly be more videos down the line.
We'll also likely ramp up the show calendar. I'd love to
play more festivals and out-of-state spots, so hopefully
we can do that as well.
Q: As we get older our goals and responsibilities
change. What, if any, are your goals for Brixton Riot and
the new release?
Jerry: We always try to put our names on something that
has a certain standard, both in the songwriting and the
recording quality. That's probably the biggest obstacle
to making TBR records, finding the time and the money to
really make something that the four of us are excited about
releasing and listening to over and over. Steve is the unofficial
gate keeper of quality assurance, getting him to buy into
a song is no easy task but like he always tells me "everybody
needs an editor". Other than that, I think our goal
is to continue to reach as many people as possible and hopefully
win them over.
Q: I know you’re a big Yankees fan. It’s
obvious we both share a love for the game. That said, do
you remember your first trip to Yankee stadium? What in
particular drew you to the pinstripes and how closely do
you follow the team?
Favorite player from your time? All-time favorite?
Jerry: I actually can't remember my first trip to Yankee
Stadium other than running around in the nosebleeds with
some friends. I was always a Yankee fan growing up but it
was my grandmother who really drew me in. She was a big
fan of Bernie and Tino and a then very young Derek Jeter.
My favorite player was Paul O'Neill and she loved him as
well because he was "such a hot head".
I was away at college when the Yankees made their World
Series run in 1995 so I called her during the last half
inning. She was so excited that she couldn't watch, so I
had to relay everything as it happened. When they finally
won the game, she went nuts. It was the most excited I had
ever heard her.
We talked for a while after the game and eventually said
our goodbyes. That call was the catalyst for our "friendship".
I started calling her more frequently, from every few weeks
to once a week to every couple of days to almost daily.
When the Yankees season was over she would ask me about
the Rangers, which was strange because she wasn't a hockey
fan. When she passed away my mother told me that she used
to read the hockey column in the sports section so that
we could have more to talk about. Those six years where
we talked every day are some of my fondest memories.
I also loved watching games with my Dad as I got older,
driving him to the Stadium every year for our annual game.
Once my son was hooked at a very early age, my Dad would
call him every morning to talk about the game from the night
before. I always loved that; my son having the same experience
with his grandfather that I had with my grandmother. Now
I watch the games with my son and we talk about my grandmother
and his grandfather and how they loved the game. The Yankees
are the thread that ties all the generations of my family
together. That's why I love the team.
Q: Okay, entering the wet dream scenario of the
interview where I ask the question… “You get
a call from the Yankees front office. They want you to perform
at the Stadium prior to or post game ceremony. The catch.
You only get to preform one song. One left to your choosing.
Which song do you pick?
Jerry: A scenario that absurd deserves an absurd answer
- Ace Frehley's "New York Groove".
Q: Why Ace, why that song?
Jerry: Just the appropriateness of the song coupled with
the absurdity of the scenario. If you’re going to
get one song to play at Yankee Stadium, it better be something
the crowd’s going to get into.
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